The Syrian government is offering citizens greater freedoms and reforms, including possibly ending the emergency law that has been in place for more than four decades.
Meanwhile, democracy activists have used social-networking sites to call for massive demonstrations across the country on Friday, a day they dubbed 'Dignity Friday'. One cyber activist based in Damascus goes by the online name Malath Aurmran. He spoke to VOA’s David Byrd about the situation in Syria, and his hopes for Friday’s demonstrations.
Byrd: Malath, first of all the situation in Daraa seems to be denigrating and getting worse day by day. Have you actually been there, and if so. what was the situation?
Malath Aumran: Well, actually I have not been there but I have been in Damascus, and I am always calling my friends there on mobile phone...and I am witnessing things going on where I am from, you know? And what’s going on there, actually everything there started last Friday when people went out of the mosque cheering for freedom and asking for releasing political prisoners and then police attacked them [inaudible] and so that’s how it started and it still continues until now.
The second day police also attacked them and left people dead and many wounded. So they turned the mosque into a field hospital because they couldn’t go to the government hospital. And many volunteer doctors took part to treat people inside the mosque. And people from Daraa just created a shield surrounding the mosque, a human shield surrounding the mosque to protect people wounded inside. Because [inaudible] went to get them. And this event, this is how it started, and it still continues until now. And we are witnessing now, like every day, every day, every day, police attacking protesters and they are following [inaudible] and YouTube Videos, and it’s like - it’s a massacre down there.
Byrd: There were reports that as many as 15 people were killed on Wednesday. Is that accurate according to what you have heard?
Malath Aumran: Actually we are not sure about numbers. We cannot really confirm numbers, we would not start to count the people whom I talk to, the local people are saying that everybody around the mosque was either killed or wounded. Now we cannot really confirm anything but many people are dead.
Byrd: The protests in Daraa started when people were asking for reform and for the government to help. There’s been drought in that area. But the response has been pretty heavy handed. What are people saying in Damascus?
Aumran: Actually last Friday it started in five cities in Syria. And all the people at all the events they said ‘we need freedoms, stop martial law, release political prisoners'. The demands we are really seeking is to stop the emergency law, we need freedom, we need liberty, release political prisoners. We are hearing every day about hundreds of people getting arrested all around Syria. Now this is the demand.
Byrd: Friday is scheduled to be similar to the protests that marked Tunisia and Egypt. What are you expecting for Friday? Are you expecting people to turn out en masse? Have you been getting good support and how are you finding out?
Aumran: We don’t know. We hope, and I think in my opinion that this Friday is going to be a big day in Syria because we will work in all cities in Syria and so they [the public] saw what is really happening there [in Daraa]. They saw people asking for freedom and they [soldiers] just firing for that. We hope that tomorrow all Syria will be in the street. I would not be so optimistic, you know, but the change has begun. The structure really is now in process in Syria, many things are changed and [that’s] why we cannot go back.